Swiss Air Force Centre: de Havilland DH.112 Venom – 30 Year Swiss Defenders

Swiss Venoms

In addition to the de Havilland DH.100 Vampire jet fighter-bomber, the Swiss Air Force also operated and licence-built the de Havilland DH.112 Venom in the fighter-bomber and reconnaissance role from the mid 1950’s into the 1980’s. The Venom was basically an improved development of the Vampire which featured the same 4 x 20mm Hispano cannons, plus a more powerful de Havilland Ghost turbojet engine and revised wings with wingtip fuel pods. Compared to the Vampire, the Venom could fly faster (maximum speed was 1,030 km/h / 640 mph), had an improved rate of climb and carry a greater weapons payload of either 8 x 27kg (60lb) underwing rockets or the equivalent of up to 2 x 450kg (1,000lb) bombs.

Swiss Air Force de Havilland DH.112 Venom FB.1 fighter-bombers
Swiss Air Force de Havilland DH.112 Venom FB.1 fighter-bombers (the bottom photo is from the collection of H. Dominik)

The Venom replaced the Vampire in the air defence role in 1954 and the Vampires took on a primary ground attack role. 126 FB.1 fighter bombers were purchased in 1954 (retired 1984), 24 FB.1R reconnaissance variants were purchased in 1956 (they could carry an underwing multi-sensor reconnaissance pod – retired 1975) along with 100 FB.4 fighter-bombers (retired 1983). 8 FB.4R reconnaissance aircraft entered service in 1980 (retired 1987). I have seen the Venom variants designated as follows but the Swiss Air Force Centre displays the aircraft as listed above – FB.50 (FB.1), FB.50R (FB.1R), FB.54 (FB.4) and FB.54R (FB.4R). Like the de Havilland Vampire jet, the Swiss Venoms were also upgraded in the 1970’s with an extended nose to house additional avionics plus the ability to carry a wider array of ordnance.

Swiss Air Force de Havilland DH.112 Venom fighter-bombers with the extended nose to hold avionics upgrades - The Venom was basically an improved Vampire
Swiss Air Force de Havilland DH.112 Venom fighter-bombers with the extended nose to hold avionics upgrades – The Venom was basically an improved Vampire

There is a well restored example of a Venom FB.4 fighter-bomber (J-1753) on display in Hall 2 at the Swiss Air Force Centre which is presented with the original fuselage, various payload options and as if it is under maintenance by a couple of ground crew. There is also a Venom FB.1R J-1642 reconnaissance variant in Hall 8 but as I mentioned in my DH.100 Vampire post, I ran out of time and didn’t make it into that location before the museum closed!

de Havilland DH.112 Venom FB.4 at the Swiss Air Force Centre
de Havilland DH.112 Venom FB.4 J-1753 at the Swiss Air Force Centre (December 2015)
de Havilland DH.112 Venom FB.4 J-1753 at the Swiss Air Force Centre (December 2015)
The upper balcony of Hall 2 offers good views of many of the aircraft on display at the Swiss Air Force Centre (December 2015)
de Havilland DH.112 Venom FB.4 J-1753 at the Swiss Air Force Centre (December 2015)
de Havilland DH.112 Venom FB.4 J-1753 at the Swiss Air Force Centre (December 2015)
de Havilland DH.112 Venom FB.4 J-1753 at the Swiss Air Force Centre (December 2015)
de Havilland DH.112 Venom FB.4 J-1753 at the Swiss Air Force Centre (December 2015)
de Havilland DH.112 Venom FB.4 J-1753 at the Swiss Air Force Centre (December 2015)
de Havilland DH.112 Venom FB.4 J-1753 in profile at the Swiss Air Force Centre (December 2015)
de Havilland DH.112 Venom FB.4 J-1753 at the Swiss Air Force Centre (December 2015)
Venom maintenance
de Havilland DH.112 Venom FB.4 J-1753 at the Swiss Air Force Centre (December 2015)
Venom maintenance

Flying the fighters until 1983/84, the Swiss were the last nation to retire the Venom from operational service (the type was also operated by Iraq, New Zealand, Sweden, the UK and Venezuela). Given its relatively late service a number of ex-Swiss Venom jets survive in museums and a small number continue to fly as warbirds around the world today. Somewhat surprisingly the Auto & Technik Museum Sinsheim in Germany has 3 ex-Swiss Venom fighter-bombers on display in various squadron markings and livery (each with the extended nose)!

Ex-Swiss Air Force de Havilland DH.112 Venom FB.50 J-1628 with an extended nose at the Auto & Technik Museum Sinsheim in Germany
Ex-Swiss Air Force de Havilland DH.112 Venom FB.1 (FB.50) J-1628 with an extended nose at the Auto & Technik Museum Sinsheim in Germany (photo taken during my visit to the museum in December 2015)
Ex-Swiss Air Force de Havilland DH.112 Venom FB.50 J-1628 with an extended nose at the Auto & Technik Museum Sinsheim in Germany
Ex-Swiss Air Force de Havilland DH.112 Venom FB.1 (FB.50) J-1628 with an extended nose at the Auto & Technik Museum Sinsheim in Germany (December 2015) – note the 20mm cannon ports in the nose and the underwing rocket racks
A shark mouthed ex-Swiss Air Force de Havilland DH.112 Venom FB.1 (FB.50) J-1603 at the Auto & Technik Museum Sinsheim in Germany
A shark mouthed ex-Swiss Air Force de Havilland DH.112 Venom FB.1 (FB.50) J-1603 at the Auto & Technik Museum Sinsheim in Germany (photo taken during my visit to the museum in December 2015)
Ex-Swiss Air Force de Havilland DH.112 Venom FB.1 (FB.50) J-1603 at the Auto & Technik Museum Sinsheim in Germany - also fitted with underwing rocket racks
Ex-Swiss Air Force de Havilland DH.112 Venom FB.1 (FB.50) J-1603 at the Auto & Technik Museum Sinsheim in Germany – also fitted with underwing rocket racks (December 2015)
The Venom's main armament was 4 x 20mm Hispano cannons mounted under the nose (extended) - Auto & Technik Museum Sinsheim (December 2015)
The Venom’s main armament was 4 x 20mm Hispano cannons mounted under the nose (extended) – Auto & Technik Museum Sinsheim (December 2015)
Ex-Swiss Air Force de Havilland DH.112 Venom FB.4 (FB.54) J-1798 at the Auto & Technik Museum Sinsheim in Germany
Another shark mouthed Ex-Swiss Air Force de Havilland DH.112 Venom FB.4 (FB.54) J-1798 at the Auto & Technik Museum Sinsheim in Germany (photo taken during my visit to the museum in December 2015)

In 2013 I went to Wings Over Wairarapa at Hood Aerodrome in Masterton, New Zealand. This was a great air show and the flying display included an ex-Swiss de Havilland DH.112 Venom FB.4 ZK-VNM (WE434 Cn 840)presented in Royal New Zealand Air Force No. 14 Squadron markings (the RAF lent 16 Venom FB.1’s to RNZAF No. 14 Squadron in Singapore between 1955 to 1958 for air operations against communist insurgents in Malaya during the Malayan Emergency). Although I had seen Vampire trainers fly before, I had never seen a Venom jet take to the sky, so it was a great chance to see it fly plenty of times in New Zealand.

de Havilland Venom NZ
An ex-Swiss Air Force de Havilland DH.112 Venom FB.4 flying in New Zealand (photo taken whilst at Wings Over Wairarapa 2013)

References:

Airvectors.net – DH Venom

Wikipedia – de Havilland Venom

Wikipedia – History of the Swiss Air Force

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